MISSOULA - Montana's housing crisis continues, but Missoula is taking one small step forward in addressing the problem.
The doors are finally opening for one of several projects meant to provide affordable housing to income-restricted residents.
That includes the Trinity Apartments on Cooley Street which is one of two complexes that are offering a combined 200 apartments.
Another part of the project is the Villagio Apartments at the end of Scott Street.
In total, 400 apartments between the three complexes seek to alleviate some of the need for low-cost housing in the Garden City.
Missoula Housing Authority (MHA) executive director Sam Oliver called housing in Missoula a crisis.
It's fair to say Missoulians are feeling the stress of the housing market as the average monthly rent in Missoula sits around $1,300.
There's an 1,000-person wait list for income-restricted housing in the new apartments for rent through MHA.
“In this case, it is primarily first come first serve," Oliver said about the 400 apartments. "There are some concessions if there is somebody who needs an accessible unit.”
Having more affordable housing is a step in the right direction and will ease some of the burden, but not all of it.
“Putting these 200 units into this market will make an impact but it will not fix the problem and there is much more of this needed,” Oliver shared
Oliver hopes that Missoula can create some positive momentum despite many challenges.
“The next steps towards affordable housing are a gray area for us. We’re hopeful with some of the steps taken in the legislature as we start to research the legislation that was passed this year but it is a bit of a moving target.”
Some of these include, land in Missoula being expensive and hard to come by, a crisis services levy to help fund services for the unhoused that voters rejected last November, and population growth in an already dire market contributes to higher rents, competition, and an increase in houselessness.
Houselessness isn’t a choice that people make. The availability of affordable housing is resulting in many people without a home.
That's why options like Trinity— which are specifically for those making 30% to 70% of the median income are so important.
The complexes are high-quality buildings for a lower cost per month which helps people and families balance life's needs.
Oliver stated that, “housing is one of the greatest stabilizing factors” and that there are ways that Missoulians can make the situation better.
“I think Missoula’s a forward-thinking community and there’s a lot of folks that now that they’re realizing this issue we’re hoping it gains some traction and folks can really get out ahead of it and support the social services that we need to address the issues," Oliver told MTN News.
Residents have begun to move into the Trinity complex on Cooley which is exciting for those behind the scenes like Oliver.
“It’s tremendously emotional and quite honestly it’s the reason why we do the work we do.”